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State high court's search ruling hard to swallow

Fourth Amendment was disregarded in restriction on homeowners.

Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 10:53 am

Sittin' and starin' out of the hotel window.

Got a tip they're gonna kick the door in again

I'd like to get some sleep before I travel,

But if you got a warrant, I guess you're gonna come in.

— from “Truckin' ”

by the Grateful Dead.

When 40-year-old lyrics from a drug-addled hippie band provide better insight into constitutional law than a recent ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court, it may just be a sign of the End Times – especially when that same ruling has liberals talking like strict constructionists.

In a 3-2 decision in which the desire to avoid violence apparently outweighed the clear language and intent of the Fourth Amendment, the court last week ruled you have no right to resist even if police kick your door in without a warrant. “We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern … jurisprudence,” wrote Justice Steven David, who as an appointee of our governor should give Republicans second thoughts about Mitch Daniels' presidential ambitions.

The problem here is not that the decision will turn good cops into rogues. Both the Fort Wayne Police chief and Allen County sheriff insist their departments' policies won't change, and the latter promised that any officer caught abusing the ruling would be terminated.

Even so, when legalistic gibberish effectively nullifies centuries of common law upholding the notion that your house really is your castle, the Fourth Amendment's assurance that Americans are “secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures” is untenable.

If the desire to avoid a potentially dangerous confrontation is paramount, as the judges suggested, should homeowners now also be prohibited from resisting burglars? And aren't public policy and modern jurisprudence supposed to follow the Constitution, not the other way around?

Even people who normally view the Constitution as a living, breathing document open to progressive evolution are expressing alarm at the court's brazen disregard for the Constitution's clear language and intent.

“Justices discard 300 years of law,” said the headline of the editorial in the Journal Gazette, which has been less troubled when the Constitution has been swept aside to accommodate abortion, bans on public prayer and abolition of the death penalty.

But because even hypocrites can be right some of the time, I welcome all allies in the fight to limit the power of government. Soon, perhaps the same liberals who want to guard my house against unwanted police intrusion will also guard my wallet against coerced Obamacare premiums.

But until hell freezes over, I will admit that it really is wiser to challenge an unlawful search after the fact, in court if necessary, than it is to confront police. Again, as FWPD chief Rusty York and Sheriff Ken Fries noted, English subjects could not file a civil suit against the king's misbehaving soldiers. But judges are not paid to dispense common sense, defend public policy or even reflect history. They are empowered and obligated to interpret the law as written, within the contemporary framework of state and federal constitutions.

York properly suggested the justices would have been on firmer ground by limiting their ruling to the kind of domestic violence that led to the decision in the first place. Few would fault police for entering a home to prevent abuse. But such “exigent circumstances” have long been accepted as justification for police action. By authorizing police to pick the locks of Hoosiers' castles with impunity, the justices exceeded not only necessity but their rightful authority – possibly adding fuel to the growing anti-government fire their misguided ruling may have been intended to douse.

Separate but equal?

The three county commissioners comprise the executive and legislative branches of Allen County government and are roughly equal in power.

The same can't be said about the size of their new offices.

When the commissioners move from the City-County Building to Citizens Square later this month, Therese Brown will occupy 319 square feet, Nelson Peters 433 and Linda Bloom 473. Maybe, as newcomer Brown suggests, that simply reflects Bloom's seniority and her 19 years on the job.

Then again, maybe not.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel.
E-mail Kevin Leininger at, or call him at 461-8355.